imomus (imomus) wrote,

Post-occupancy chairs

I decided to do a little slideshow for my Post-Materialist slot in the Times this week -- basically, these are all the chairs I photographed this year, crammed into a short YouTube video with a somewhat rushed commentary.

Judging by the comments, while some found 5000 Years of Chairs in 5 Minutes "very interesting", others were mystified. "What’s the point?" demanded Steve, apparently some kind of academic, "If I received this presentation from a student, I would fail him/her." Jared's jab was more sly: "The anticipation of a conclusion or insightful comment kept me on the edge of my seat the whole time!"

I figured people wouldn't want a ton of editorializing in a little slideshow of chairs, but for the record here's the thinking behind the piece.

1. Things are just as valid and interesting when they're in use out in the world as they are when they're new and standing in a showroom, and possibly more so.

2. This is what Rem Koolhaas called (in a recent edition of Domus D'Autore) "post-occupancy design" -- the stuff that happens to design after it's left the designer's workshop (and architecture after it's left the studio) is the real test of its quality and character. Occupancy and use shouldn't see the designer and the architect melting away. They should stick around, take notes, and take photos. The processes of time and decay can be beautiful. The way people use stuff and adapt it can be instructive.

3. You don't have to buy stuff to be smitten with it -- public furniture that we just see on our travels (and maybe photograph) is worth writing about too. That's one of the things The Post-Materialist is all about.

4. There's also the idea that things come full circle: the slideshow takes us from paleolithic stone benches on the island of Orkney to modern concrete benches in the same place. There's a "before industrial design" and an "after industrial design", and they look remarkably similar. That's something I think Jan Lindenberg's Sweatshop 2.0 project was about -- coming up with chair design that deconstructs the distinction between amateur and professional, between the past and the present, between new and secondhand... and between shelves and chairs!

5. One word: recycle!

Finally, though, the slideshow is a little tribute to the dizzying diversity of forms out there, and about the kind of beauty -- or ugliness, or oddness -- that compels you to turn your camera on an inanimate object. Do I get to graduate from your course now, Steve, whatever the hell it is?

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